Human Rights Council discusses human rights situation in Syria
Human Rights Council
27 June 2012
Concludes General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights
The Human Rights Council this morning took up the human rights situation in Syria under its agenda item on human rights situations that re quire the Council’s attention. It heard High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay present a report on Syria by the Secretary-General, and was briefed by Jean-Marie Guehenno, the Deputy Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on Syria. It then held an interactive dialogue with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria. At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.
Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the situation in Syria continued to deteriorate, regardless of the ceasefire agreement of 12 April 2012. She urged all the parties to immediately stop all forms of violence. Ms. Pillay presented the report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the human rights situation in Syria.
Jean-Marie Guehenno, Deputy Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, said the six-point plan was clearly not being implemented and hostilities had now surpassed levels seen before 12 April. The human rights situation in Syria was inextricably linked to the political dimensions of the conflict. Syria was now engulfed by various types of violence, including sectarianism, with serious implications for the region. Amidst the insecurity, around 1.5 million people were in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. The impact of the conflict on children was of particular concern. At the moment all sides appeared not to believe in the possibility of a political solution. Time was running out. Syria was spiralling into deeper and more destructive violence. The people of Syria desperately needed the international community to come together and exercise its full influence before it was too late.
Paulo Pinheiro of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria said gross violations of human rights were occurring regularly in the context of increasingly militarized fighting, characteristic of a non-international armed conflict. Mr. Pinheiro was grateful to the Syrian authorities for enabling his visit to Damascus from 23 to 25 June, which allowed him to discuss the El-Houleh investigation with the authorities. More than 100 people were killed on 25 May in Taldou, one of El-Houleh’s larger towns, the significant majority of victims reported to be women and children deliberately killed in their homes. The Commission believed it unlikely that anti-Government fighters were responsible for the killing and considered that Syria Government forces or those loyal to them were the most likely perpetrators. The cessation of hostilities was of paramount importance. The Joint Special Envoy’s six-point plan offered the best option for a resolution of the conflict.
Syria, speaking as the concerned country, said that national reconciliation could happen only when foreign powers stopped inciting violence. The crisis in Syria was a genuine war and a criminal operation involving destruction of property. It was supported and financed from abroad in order to promote hostility among the Syrian people and to perpetrate anarchy and disorder while Israel continued its colonization of Arab territories. Syria reiterated its commitment to the implementation of the Annan Plan and said it would not allow armed groups to attack United Nations observers and prevent them from implementing their mission.
During the interactive dialogue, speakers strongly condemned indiscriminate and deliberate killings of civilians and in particular the shocking assassination of civilians in El-Houleh and the deliberate targeting of children. The recent report of the Commission of Inquiry left no doubt as to what was happening on the ground and identified the Syrian authorities as carrying a clear and definite responsibility in this regard. As Syria remained unwilling or unable to investigate and prosecute crimes, delegations fully endorsed and supported the High Commissioner’s repeated calls for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court by the Security Council.
Other speakers were concerned that in the name of human rights and supposed humanitarian action disguised under the imperial thesis of the “responsibility to protect”, interventionist mechanisms were presented as having to be established.
The intervention of foreign forces would sow greater destruction, multiply deaths, and have serious implications for the region. More dialogue and true will for negotiation was needed. Speakers rejected any undermining of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and condemned the pretentions of some countries to impose regime change on the Syrian people.
Taking the floor in the interactive dialogue were: Qatar, Maldives on behalf of a group of States, Venezuela, European Union, Turkey, United States, Australia, Spain, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Portugal, Russia, Ireland, Sweden on behalf of Nordic countries, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, France, Chile, Cuba, Brazil, Uruguay, Thailand, China, Czech Republic, Belgium, Mexico, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Croatia, Switzerland, Germany, Morocco, Japan, Iran, Libya, Latvia, Romania, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Algeria and Ecuador.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. Speakers welcomed the focus on the participation of women in political and public life and noted the need for more concerted efforts in combating discrimination and violence against women and girls. The Council should promote an inter-institutional dialogue on the Sahel in order to effectively address humanitarian challenges in this area, they said.
Non-governmental organizations speaking in the general debate were Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, Action Canada for Population and Development, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Action Internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Coopération Economique Internationale, Worldwide Organization for Women, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, International Harm Reduction Association, American Association of Jurists, United Nations Watch, Vereign Sudwind, Amnesty International, Agence Internationale pour le développement and the Independent Centre for Research and Initiative for the Dialogue.
The Human Rights Council will resume its interactive dialogue with the Commission on Inquiry on Syria at 2 p.m. this afternoon. At 4 p.m. it is scheduled to hold an interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on Belarus. And at 5 p.m., it will meet behind closed doors under its Complaints Procedure.
The Council has before it the report of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic (A/HRC/20/37)
The report of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Syria contains information on the recent developments on the ground up until 11 May 2012, a summary of the information submitted by the Government of Syria in several notes verbales addressed to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights during the reporting period, as well as information on measures and actions taken by relevant international stakeholders. The report says that although a ceasefire brokered by the United Nations was announced on 12 April 2012, its implementation remained partial and fragile during the reporting period. Despite some improvements on the ground, violence and killings, including during armed clashes, through shelling and the use of explosive devices, continued throughout Syria, and the civilian population remained significantly insecure. There were credible reports of ongoing serious human rights violations.
The Council has before it the oral update of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (A/HRC/20/CRP.1)
NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the situation in Syria continued to deteriorate, regardless of the ceasefire agreement of 12 April 2012. The Human Rights Council had voiced grave concerns about the escalation of violence throughout the territory and its impact on civilians and urged all the parties to immediately stop all forms of violence. The High Commissioner presented the report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the human rights situation in Syria which reviewed the implementation of the Human Rights Council resolution 19/22 of 23 March 2012. The report reviewed the developments in the country until 11 May 2012 and noted that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights continued to provide full secretarial support to the independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria.
JEAN-MARIE GUEHENNO, Deputy Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, said everyone knew that the human rights situation in Syria was inextricably linked to the political dimensions of the conflict. At the core of the Syrian crisis were egregious human rights violations, and the escalating violence that had unfolded in the last 15 months had only increased that threat, as was often the case when the absence of a political perspective turned into a violent confrontation. Syria was now engulfed by various types of violence, including sectarianism, with serious implications for the region. In an attempt to address the crisis the Government had pursued a series of initiatives, including constitutional reform, parliamentary elections and the inauguration of a new Cabinet on 25 June. Those new initiatives were taken unilaterally and as such did not help build any trust among those who opposed the present regime. Now large segments of the Syrian population continued to mobilize against the Government and public support for the armed opposition appeared to have increased. In March Joint Special Envoy for Syria Kofi Annan put forward a six-point plan, endorsed by the Security Council and accepted by the Syrian authorities. The United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) was authorized by the Security Council and rapidly deployed – a sign of the commitment of the international community to the peaceful resolution of the conflict and to the six-point plan. However the agreed cessation of violence in all of its forms, effective as of 12 April, held only briefly. The six-point plan was clearly not being implemented and hostilities had now surpassed levels seen before 12 April.
Based on actions observed by the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria, Government forces appeared to be seeking the military defeat of the Free Syrian Army. The armed opposition had also increased the tempo of their military operations in support of their goals, through attacks on Government installations, assassinations and use of Improvised Explosive Devices causing both Syrian military and civilian casualties. The levels of violence ultimately rendered the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria’s activities untenable, and on 15 June its operations had been temporarily suspended. Amidst this insecurity, around 1.5 million people were in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Despite an agreement with the Government, and some deliveries under difficult circumstances, a major gap remained between the needs and the ability of aid workers to deliver the assistance. The Deputy Joint Special Envoy expressed concern about the military occupation of hospitals, health facilities and schools, and about the serious and widespread psycho-social trauma caused by the conflict. In that regard, the impact of the conflict on children was of particular concern.
The opposition remained divided between those who favoured a peaceful political transition, those who rejected any understanding with the Government, and those who supported continued armed resistance. Political space for political mobilization remained tight, and represented a factor in the fragmentation of the opposition. In addition, public statements indicated a growing distance between opposition leaders inside Syria, particularly within the armed elements of the Free Syria Army, and those based outside the country. There was also a generational divide which further highlighted the complexity of the crisis in Syria. Many Syrians were of the view that no meaningful political process could be initiated so long as military operations continued, and thousands of people remained in detention and at risk of further abuse, torture, or summary executions. At the same time, a sustained cessation of violence could not be achieved without a credible political perspective. At the moment all sides appeared to not believe in the possibility of a political solution. Political goals were being pursued with military means. Time was running out. Syria was spiralling into deeper and more destructive violence. The people of Syria desperately needed the international community to come together now and exercise its full influence before it was too late.
PAULO PINHEIRO, Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, said gross violations of human rights were occurring regularly in the context of increasingly militarized fighting, characteristic of a non-international armed conflict. Violence had evolved from protests into fighting between the Syrian army together with pro-Government militias, and anti-Government armed groups. Despite the commitment to a ‘cessation of armed violence’ under the Joint Special Envoy’s six-point plan, military engagements escalated dramatically and had extended to other regions. Government forces had intensified military operations against areas presumed to be strongholds of anti-Government armed groups. Anti-Government armed groups, including those affiliated to the “Free Syrian Army” continued to engage with the Government’s forces through direct combat, the increased use of Improvised Explosive Devices and attacks on military and security facilities. Mr. Pinheiro said he was grateful to the Syrian authorities for enabling his visit to Damascus from 23 to 25 June to explain the nature of the Commission’s work in person to the members of the Government. The visit allowed Mr. Pinheiro to discuss the El-Houleh investigation with the authorities and meet with various stakeholders.
It was generally acknowledged that more than 100 people were killed on 25 May in Taldou, one of El-Houleh’s larger towns, during armed confrontations between Government and anti-Government forces. The significant majority of victims were reported to be women and children deliberately killed in their homes. The Syrian Government blamed “terrorists” coming from outside El-Houleh for the deaths. Opposition activists said the perpetrators were Shabbiha from neighbouring villages, perhaps, acting together with the army. Evidence indicated that the Government had deployed heavy weaponry in Taldou and the surrounding areas and, in fact, did shell several locations. Government positions in Taldou appeared to have had a clear line of sight to the location of the killings, making access for non-State perpetrators difficult. The manner in which those killings took place resembled repeated killings committed by the Government. The Commission believed it unlikely that anti-Government fighters were responsible for the killing. While the possibility of the involvement of foreign groups of unknown affiliation could not be ruled out, the Commission considered that Syria Government forces or those loyal to them were the most likely perpetrators of many of the deaths.
Government forces and Shabbiha had perpetrated unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and other forms of ill-treatment in the reporting period. Children had been particularly affected and continued to suffer. Government forces and Shabbiha had committed acts of sexual violence against men, women and children. However the Commission had reasonable grounds to believe that anti-Government armed groups had extra-judicially executed captured members of the Government forces, Shabbiha, foreign fighters, supporters of the Government, suspected informers and collaborators. Anti-Government armed groups tortured captured members of the Syrian security forces and/or their alleged supporters and abducted civilians and members of Government forces, usually to facilitate prisoner exchanges. The Commission was particularly concerned by reports that anti-Government armed groups were using children as messengers and cooks, exposing them to risk of death and injury. There had been a number of attacks, including on United Nations staff in Syria and religious buildings, where the Commission were unable to determine the perpetrators, and would continue to investigate. As a result of the reported flow of new weapons and ammunitions to both Government forces and anti-Government armed groups the situation could be further aggravated in the coming months. Further militarization of the crisis would be catastrophic for the people of Syria and the region. The cessation of hostilities was of paramount importance. The Joint Special Envoy’s six-point plan offered the best option for a resolution of the conflict. The Commission was encouraged to learn that the Action Group would take place in the near future and were convinced that Group opened a real possibility for genuine inclusive dialogue leading to the end of the spiral of violence.
Statement by Syria as the Concerned Country
Syria, speaking as the concerned country, said that national reconciliation could happen only when foreign powers stopped inciting violence. The Commission of Inquiry had fallen into the trap of prejudice in preparation of its report and had made accusations against the Government based solely on claims by biased people and media. The crisis in Syria had not originated in peaceful demonstrations and protests. It was a genuine war and a criminal operation involving destruction of property. It was supported and financed from abroad. The objective of the conspiracy was to encourage chaos and promote hostility among the Syrian people, and to perpetrate anarchy and disorder while Israel continued its colonization of Arab territories. Syria had engaged in constructive cooperation with the United Nations agencies and Special Procedures and had provided information on how the armed groups used children as live shields and destroyed the country’s infrastructure. Only 25 per cent of the aid promised for the humanitarian situation in Syria had arrived, according to United Nations figures. Syria welcomed all benevolent efforts to end the situation and would cooperate with all those offering constructive political vision and solutions. Syria reiterated its commitment to the implementation of the Annan Plan and said it would not allow the armed groups to attack United Nations observers and prevent them from implementing their mission. Syria objected to holding the debate in the Council today and said it would not participate in such a flagrantly politicized meeting.
Interactive Debate with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria
Qatar said that after reading the report, it seemed that Syrian history was no longer one of a great civilization, but was becoming one of bloodshed. Qatar strongly denounced violations of human rights in Syria. Syria was not complying with measures put forth by the international community, despite its initial agreement. It had been clearly shown that killings, arbitrary detention, torture and sexual violence had been perpetrated by all sides. Syria had to ensure the fulfillment of its responsibilities towards its people.
Maldives, speaking on behalf of a group of States, said they were extremely concerned and dismayed by the findings of the Commission of Inquiry. As Syria remained unwilling or unable to investigate and prosecute crimes, the group of States fully endorsed and supported the calls of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Procedures mandate-holders to the United Nations Security Council that the situation in Syria be referred to the International Criminal Court.
Venezuela condemned the shocking assassination of innocents, among them women and children, in El-Houleh and called for a serious, impartial and independent investigation. The presence of terrorists and mercenaries had been identified, which sought to destabilize the Government through violent means. These armed groups were funded and trained by imperial powers and their allies. Venezuela was concerned that in the name of human rights and supposed humanitarian action disguised under the imperial thesis of the “responsibility to protect”, interventionist mechanisms were presented as having to be established. It was not ideal to isolate Syria. Venezuela supported and believed in the capacity of the Syrian Government and the Syrian people to solve their own problems.
European Union urged Syria to fully cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry and to provide access to the country, in view of ensuring that those responsible for violations were held to account, including the killing of children as young as nine years of age. The Syrian Government had the responsibility to protect its people, and it had failed to do so. The European Union condemned these indiscriminate and deliberate killings that may amount to crimes against humanity and other international crimes. The European Union asked the Commission to share findings regarding the situation of detainees held by the Government and on measures to put an end to impunity and ensure justice?
Turkey said that those who continued to cling to power in Damascus bore responsibility for the violence. The Syrian Government had attacked a Turkish plane flying solo and unarmed in international airspace and this was a hostile act against Turkish national security. This irresponsible and dangerous attitude taken by the Syrian authorities posed a serious threat to peace and security in the region. The conclusions of the Commission of Inquiry reiterated that crimes against humanity were increasingly being committed in Syria. Perpetrators must be brought to justice and the international community could not shy away from its responsibility to stop the escalation of violence.
Italy strongly condemned the massive human rights violence that continued unabated in Syria and urged the authorities to immediately put an end to violence against civilians. The report of the Commission of Inquiry left no doubt as to what was happening in the country. While not all facts could be fully verified, an appalling scenario was emerging. As dynamics on the ground were clear, the international community and the Council had the duty to remain strongly committed and to keep vigilant in order to promote stability in Syria and the region.
United States said that the Assad regime was waging a brutal campaign against the Syrian people characterized by atrocities with the death toll reaching 15,000. The Assad regime was responsible for the violence and slaughter in Homs, El-Houleh and elsewhere and must end its crimes against the people of Syria. The Commission of Inquiry must be able to continue documenting violations and collecting evidence so that those responsible for gross human rights violations and abuses would be held accountable.
Australia was horrified by the brutal massacres in El-Houleh and Qabayr and said that there was ample evidence about gross human rights violations committed in the country. The international community must focus on not allowing another massacre to occur and should come together to pressure the Syrian regime, including though Chapter VII sanctions. Australia had pledged $11 million in humanitarian aid and had also imposed robust sanctions on sectors closely linked with the regime.
Spain said that the situation in Syria was unacceptable. The Assad regime had lost all legitimacy and must stop the violence immediately and start the transition according to the wishes of its people. It was regrettable that the Commission of Inquiry had not been provided access to places of massacres. Spain deplored the deliberate targeting of children and called upon the Council and other United Nations bodies, particularly the Security Council, to put an end to the violence in Syria.
Canada urged the Syrian authorities to fully cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry. Canada was extremely disturbed by the conclusions to date and it was imperative for the Syrian security forces to stop using lethal force. They should enable safe and unhindered access by humanitarian workers to those in need. What measures would Syria use to ensure the protection of children? Grave human rights violations had been committed by armed anti-Government groups and Canada condemned these actions. Canada called on all parties to stop the violence, respect the human rights of the Syrian people and respect the ceasefire. It called on Syria to fulfill its obligations under the Joint Special Envoy’s plan before the violence became even more uncontrollable.
United Arab Emirates said that having listened to the presentation, the United Arab Emirates deplored the deterioration of the situation in Syria, which was due to the refusal of the authorities to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry. It also deplored the lack of will on the part of the authorities to protect the innocent victims of the El-Houleh massacres, and highlighted the importance of bringing the perpetrators to justice. The United Arab Emirates called for the full implementation of the Joint Special Envoy’s plan and stressed the importance of the international community to play its role in ending the operation of the machinery of war.
Portugal strongly condemned the Syrian Government for systematically ignoring the international community’s call for the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Syrian people. The unspeakable acts of violence had to stop immediately. Portugal strongly believed that the gross and systematic violations of human rights, which might amount to crimes against humanity, could not go unpunished and those responsible had to be held accountable. A political solution was urgently needed and so Portugal strongly called upon the Syrian authorities to fully implement the Peace Plan of the Joint Special Envoy. Which levels at the international level did the Commission of Inquiry envisage to ensure that those responsible were brought to justice?
Russian Federation said the Commission of Inquiry should not duplicate efforts or the investigations by the United Nations Mission in Syria. The Commission had taken a responsible approach and avoided making a unilateral assessment; however, the difficulties to clarify the situation showed the deficiencies of the Council’s resolution and the challenges elucidating the truth and countering rumours circulated against Syria. On a daily basis attacks targeted State institutions and gunmen had been carrying out attacks in Syrian cities with foreign support. Clearly such challenges and limitation would not promote a peaceful settlement to the conflict; rather, they were negatively affecting the Syrian people. Syrians themselves should determine their future on the basis of a dialogue with all stakeholders.
Ireland hoped that the Commission of Inquiry’s visit to Damascus could pave the way to begin its work in earnest in Syria. Gross human rights violations and brutal repression upon defenceless Syrian citizens continued unabated and it was paramount that the international community kept the issue of full accountability for violations, as witnessed in El-Houleh and Qabayr. The Syrian authorities had been identified in recent reports of the Commission as carrying a clear and definite responsibility in this regard and Ireland took note of the High Commissioner’s repeated calls for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court by the Security Council.
Sweden, speaking in a joint statement on behalf of the Nordic countries, condemned in the strongest terms the continued widespread human rights violations, in particular targeted killings of innocent children. Sweden urged Syria to immediately end the violence and attacks on civilians and condemned the indiscriminate use of force against the civilian population, as well as the massacres and systematic and gross human rights violations carried out by the Syrian authorities. It was imperative that the international community redoubled its efforts to find a broad and inclusive approach for a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis.
Saudi Arabia said that the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and the large number of victims in El-Houleh could not be accepted or justified. Bloodshed must be stopped and it was necessary for everyone to cooperate and to move quickly and give hope to the people of Syria that the situation would get better soon.
United Kingdom said that the highest levels of Syrian authorities were complicit in gross human rights violations committed in the country. While it was clear that the Government was responsible for provoking a climate of violence, the abuses carried by opposition groups were of concern and could not be justified. Impunity would not be allowed to prevail. The United Kingdom welcomed the focus of the Commission of Inquiry on accountability and asked what more could be done to support action towards accountability for human rights violations.
France expressed concern about the increasing militarization of the crisis in Syria and the systematic violations committed by the authorities. The perpetrators of those mass authorities should be tried by the International Criminal Court. The primary responsibility for violence was on the Syrian authorities which had engaged in desperate efforts and did not show the will to implement the Annan plan.
Chile restated the pressing need for all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, to cease the violence and comply with the multilateral human rights protection system. The El-Houleh incident and serious violations and abuse of human rights were proven facts and had been repeatedly condemned. It should not be forgotten that victims were the prime concern of the Human Rights Council. Constant vigilance and actions were required. Main crimes committed should not go unpunished and there had to be accountability. There was a need for the Human Rights Council to refer the facts to the International Criminal Court. The Council was fundamental in ensuring that the multilateral system worked effectively.
Cuba said that it was closely monitoring the situation in Syria and its international repercussions. The information available was biased, vague and frequently manipulated. In line with Cuban rejection of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, Cuba condemned terrorist attacks perpetrated against civilians. The intervention of foreign forces would sow greater destruction, multiply deaths, and have serious implications for the region. More dialogue and true will for negotiation was needed. Cuba rejected any undermining of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and condemned the pretentions of some countries to impose regime change on the Syrian people.
Brazil was deeply concerned by the escalation of violence in Syria, the brunt of which was borne by defenceless civilians. The situation was alarming not only because of the mounting casualties but also because it was known that there was no military solution to the crisis. Brazil joined Mr. Annan’s call for all parties to effectively and immediately abide by the six-point plan, before the crisis spiraled out of control. The Syrian Government bore the primary responsibility to protect civilians and create the conditions necessary for the violence to stop, in order to allow for the beginning of an inclusive, Syrian-led political process aimed at democratically and effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.
Uruguay reiterated concern about the intensity of the violence and the deterioration of the situation in Syria. In an increasingly militarised context, human rights violations continued to be registered regularly. The plan of the Joint Special Envoy constituted the only way towards a negotiated solution, but it was not being implemented. Given the escalation of the violence and the systematic and generalised violations, these could be deemed to constitute crimes against humanity. Uruguay urged Syria to engage in an inclusive national dialogue and continue to cooperate with the Council.
Thailand strongly condemned the ongoing violence in Syria, including the rising casualties among civilians, women and children. The humanitarian situation was also of concern. Thailand called on all sides to implement the plan of the Joint Special Envoy without further delay. Only the Syrian people could overcome this crisis through an inclusive political dialogue among all parties. The Council should stand ready to support the Syrian people in a constructive and cooperative manner. Reports of weapons supplied from abroad were alarming.
China hoped that the Commission would strengthen its dialogue and cooperation with the Syrian Government and called on all parties to take into consideration the long-term interests of the Syrian people. China called on the Syrian Government to implement Security Council resolutions and the plan of the Joint Special Envoy, cease violence and start an inclusive political dialogue without preconditions. Furthermore, the international community should effectively respect the integrity and sovereignty of the Syrian people, including their right to independently determine their future without intervention. Finally, the international community should continue to support the plan and efforts of the Joint Special Envoy.
Czech Republic was appalled by the accounts of killings and torture of children as young as 10 years of age and their use as human shields and strongly condemned the failure of the Syrian authorities to protect their people. The international community must strive to prevent further bloodshed and create conditions for a peaceful transition in the country. The Czech Republic called on all parties to refrain from using violence and on the regime to implement the Annan plan.
Belgium welcomed the preliminary findings of the Commission of Inquiry pointing at the possible responsibility of Government-loyal forces for many of the deaths in the El-Houleh massacre. Belgium was particularly appalled by reports of human rights violations committed against children and encouraged the Commission to continue to document human rights violations as such collection of evidence was crucial in the fight against impunity.
Mexico said that indiscriminate attacks by the Government were leaving the Syrian civilians in an extremely precarious situation. All parties to the conflict were responsible for human suffering and it was imperative to stop the violence and respect the Annan plan. Progressive deterioration of the situation emphasized the urgency to stop the violence and increase the protection of civilians. To this end, international human rights law would have to be supplemented by the provisions of international humanitarian law and international criminal law.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was concerned that the situation in Syria was aggravated by the terrorist acts of rebels that received military, financial and other assistance and instigation from outside forces. Human rights issues or disputes must be resolved through genuine dialogue and constructive cooperation, free from unilateral coercive, confrontational and selective condemnation based on political motives. Any attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of a country and to impose unacceptable pressure under the pretext of human rights should not be justified as these were a flagrant breach of the United Nations Charter and relevant norms of international law and the principle of respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Member States.
Croatia condemned in the strongest possible terms the abuse of children, sexual violence, unlawful killings, extra-judicial executions and torture. Systematic and gross human rights violations that amounted to crimes against humanity might have been committed. Croatia endorsed and supported the call for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court. It urged the Government to undertake concrete step to implement the recommendation addressed in the report. Croatia called on all parties to grant safe and unhindered access to humanitarian actors.
Switzerland strongly condemned all violations of international law of which civilians in particular were victims. All parties should immediately put an end to the violence. Switzerland called upon the Syrian authorities to respect human rights. Free and unhindered access for humanitarian actors should also be granted. All allegations made of violations had to be investigated to prosecute perpetrators of such acts. Switzerland called upon the Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court, as the institution best equipped to prosecute and judge presumed perpetrators of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Germany said that Syria’s constant refusal to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry could only be interpreted as an admittance of guilt. A full investigation of all human rights violations and abuses since March 2011 was urgently needed and all perpetrators should be identified and held accountable. Syria’s statements as a concerned State could only be qualified as partial distortions, if not as deliberate lies. It was a blatant lie to state that the Government’s forces were not responsible for systematic violations of human rights. Germany asked the Commission how could the Council support and enhance its work?
Morocco said that the report called for the international community to react to the gravity of the worsening situation on the ground. Morocco condemned the violence against civilian populations and said that its immediate cessation was necessary for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Morocco noted with concern the difficulties faced by the Commission of Inquiry to carry out its work and reiterated the importance of providing adequate resources. Morocco exhorted the international community to work towards a political solution along the plan of the Joint Special Envoy.
Japan said that the plan of the Joint Special Envoy continued to be relevant. The Syrian Government must first unconditionally observe the plan, in particular by withdrawing military units from population centres and ending the use of heavy weaponry. Japan welcomed the update and report of the Commission on the brutal killings in El-Houleh. An investigation into all human rights violations, including the massacre in El-Houleh, should be carried out and perpetrators identified.
Iran said that one-sided condemnation of the Syrian Government coupled with its diplomatic isolation was not conducive to peaceful settlement. It was necessary to make every effort to launch the inclusive political process in Syria. The smuggling of arms and explosives would endanger the peaceful solution, put the negotiations at risk and help the perilous situation on the verge of internal conflict with all its consequences for the whole region.
Libya said that it was clear that the situation had worsened in Syria and that the people were paying heavily for it with their lives and blood. There were nearly 100,000 Syrian refugees and 1.5 million in need of assistance which was evidence of human rights violations committed against them by the authorities. The international community must step up its efforts to bring an end to the violations of the human rights of Syrians.
Latvia was seriously concerned about the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and the unacceptable ongoing suffering of Syrian civilians. The Government must stop the human rights violations immediately and comply with the conditions set in the Annan six-point plan. Latvia asked the Commission if the understanding reached on how it was deployed in Syria included the permission to carry out a thorough investigation in El-Houleh as requested by the Human Rights Council on 1 June.
Romania deplored that not even young children and women had been spared from the violence. It was horrifying that the Government forces resorted to all kinds of crimes from mass killings to torture and ill treatment, among others. Romania found impunity unacceptable, whatever the perpetrator and crime committed, acknowledging that abuses had been committed by other parties known or unknown. Romania urged all parties to put an end to the violence with a view to avoiding the spiraling of the conflict and further casualties. It strongly believed that the solution was to comply with the plan presented by the Joint Special Envoy.
Netherlands deplored the ongoing attacks on the civilian population, the killings, the unlawful detention and use of torture, that children had been victims of incomprehensible cruelties, and that there had been disturbing accounts of sexual violence against women and children. It was noted that some in the debate demanded an even-handedness vis-à-vis the Government and armed groups. However, the Netherlands said it found it clear that the Government had a more fundamental responsibility, holding obligations under international law. The six-point plan had to be implemented and the violence had to cease, allowing for the provision of humanitarian assistance.
Bulgaria was profoundly shocked by reports that children as young as nine years of age had been victims of killings, maiming, arbitrary arrest, torture and ill-treatment. The Syrian authorities had continuously failed in their duty to protect their own people. Bulgaria insisted on the granting of full, immediate and unfettered access for humanitarian organizations, and that the safety and security of all humanitarian personnel was ensured. Further deterioration of the situation had to be avoided, as it would seriously threaten international and regional security. The Human Rights Council had to more vigorously pursue the goal of ensuring accountability for human rights in Syria.
Algeria said that the situation in Syria was unacceptable, in particular in terms of the escalating violence and flagrant human rights violations. Those concerned for international peace and stability should take note of the latest events in the region. The international community should protect the rights of the Syrian people and launch a mechanism for national justice and reconciliation.
Ecuador reiterated its support for the plan of the Joint Special Envoy and the need for an impartial investigation into the human rights situation. Perpetrators of violations should be brought to justice, including those who provided weapons, supporting and contributing to the execution of violence on the ground. Ecuador exhorted the international community to support the work of the Joint Special Envoy in order to preserve the lives and well-being of those most vulnerable, including women and children.
General Debate on the Protection and Promotion of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development
Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme encouraged the Council to promote an inter-institutional dialogue on the Sahel in order to effectively address humanitarian security challenges in this area. The organization welcomed the progress made in terms of legal norms to eliminate discrimination against women and handicapped women. Combating discrimination against women required increased international solidarity.
Action Canada for Population and Development welcomed the focus on the participation of women in political and public life. Participation in peaceful protests contributed to democratic societies and states, but women were being sidelined from transition processes and secluded from higher posts. The organization underlined the importance of addressing issues affecting women’s rights in those situations such as militarization and radicalism.
International Fellowship of Reconciliation expressed concern about the limitations for the protection of conscientious objectors. For example, Switzerland qualified as deserters many Eritrean women and men who had escaped from dictatorship, crossing Libya and Sudan. In Syria soldiers were refusing to fire against their fellow citizens and seeking refuge in Turkey. The organization invited States to back conscientious objectors.
Action Internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs said that it regretted that serious violations had occurred in some areas of the Great Lakes region of Africa controlled by separatists or armed militias, including arbitrary arrest, detention, and sexual abuse of women and children. Freedom of speech was the most violated right. On the Sahara issue the organization urged freedom of speech and full enjoyment of basic human rights in the Polisario camps.
Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Coopération Economique Internationale called on the Human Rights Council to support recommendations coming from the forum. It thanked Morocco for its cooperation with different Special Procedures and its commitment to set up a culture of human rights by launching major social and political reforms.
Worldwide Organization for Women appreciated the special attention given to the causes and consequences of violence. It urged States to give further consideration to taboos and social pressure on reporting violence they experienced. In 44 countries, cultural norms against reporting rape were severe and included exile or even death. Ensuring legislation was in place for times when violence was not reported was a vital means to eliminating taboos.
International Human Rights Association of American Minorities said the right to self-determination was the basis of enjoyment of all other rights and that was why the people of Kashmir should be given the right to decide their destiny. Systematic abuse and violations of human rights by India had been a major impediment to the solution of the situation in Kashmir.
International Harm Reduction Association said that the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on 26 June should be an opportunity to examine the negative role of drug control and enforcement on development and human rights, and particularly human rights of women. It was not sufficient to blindly accept the way in which the ‘war on drugs’ had been conducted.
American Association of Jurists said that much progress had been made in bringing forward legislation protecting vulnerable groups, including women victims of violence. States must now implement their national laws to guarantee the human rights of women, while the Human Rights Council must protect women living in poverty, those affected by conflict and women human rights defenders.
United Nations Watch said that a human rights activists’ summit was held in September. The resulting declaration urged the General Assembly to pursue a new agenda for human rights and called on Member States to remove tyrannical governments from special positions of power in the United Nations human rights system, suspending China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia from the Human Rights Council, removing Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women, and expelling Saudi Arabia from the Executive Board of United Nations Women.
Vereign Sudwind regretted that the possibilities for non-governmental organizations to take part in interactive dialogues were very limited. Human rights violations that happened during the period between the deadline of written statements and the general debates were so numerous that it was not possible to even name them within the two minutes allotted in general debate. In the last 23 days there had been at least 16 executions, including nine public executions in Iran. The Council was urged to focus on negotiating a moratorium on the death penalty in Iran.
Amnesty International expressed concern that the strategy of the United Nations Working Group on Transnational Corporations had important gaps and failed to reflect an assessment function on the implementation of existing guidelines. The Working Group should focus on access to State-based remedies. Amnesty International recommended the strategy reflected the importance of assessing existing standards, learning from real cases and considering States’ extraterritorial obligations for businesses’ human rights abuses.
Agence Internationale pour le développement noted with satisfaction that in the recent years Morocco had taken outstanding initiatives to promote human rights, including the right to development and education on human rights. It had recently reinforced its human rights governing framework and established the National Human Rights Council, in conformity with the Paris Principles. The Agency called upon the Human Rights Council to grant Morocco assistance and encouragement.
Independent Centre for Research and Initiative for the Dialogue spoke about access to cultural heritage, which was an important right. It drew attention to the fact that Burundi would soon celebrate 50 years of independence. With a view to national reconciliation, the remains of King Mwambutsa, buried in Geneva, were to be exhumed and repatriated. The operation had been suspended due to a failure in compliance with exhumation procedures and the case would go to court. A serious, inclusive, transparent and empathetic dialogue should take place on the matter.